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04-01-2013, 10:27 PM
Mayor Bee
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Part 6: Drafting

If Columbus was expected to build (can't "rebuild"; the original build sucked), it would have to be through the draft. As mentioned in Part 1, free agents don't come to Columbus, and players at the biggest positions of need don't hit the trade market. It would be through the draft.

I mentioned previously that Columbus has had horrible luck with draft slotting, and the 2007-12 years are no exception. 2007 had one franchise player (Patrick Kane), and Columbus picked 7th. 2008 had three, Columbus picked 6th. 2009 had at least two, and Columbus made the playoffs and traded back from #16 to #21. 2010 had two, and Columbus picked 4th. 2011 had at least one (still too early), and 2012 is still unknown.

I hate to keep piling on the guy, because that's something that only Scott Arniel deserves, but I think we need to take a look at Doug MacLean's drafting a final time. He had seven drafts to work with, and whiffed all over the place. His first-round record has been beaten to death, but we need to look at the rest of the rounds.

2nd - Tim Jackman, Kiel McLeod, Joakim Lindstrom, Dan Fritsche, Adam Pineault, Kyle Wharton, Adam McQuaid. No first-liners, no first-pairing defensemen. Only two players are still in the NHL (Jackman and McQuaid), and they're bottom-of-the-roster.

3rd - Ben Knopp, Aaron Johnson, Per Mars, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, Jeff Genovy, Dmitry Kosmachev, Dan LaCosta, Andrei Plekhanov, Kris Russell, Steve Mason, Tom Sestito. Same story as the second-rounders, plus Steve Mason.

4th - Ivan Tkachenko, Jekabs Redlihs, Kevin Jarman, Philippe Dupuis, Jared Boll, Ben Wright. Only Boll has had anything resembling an NHL career, and he's a 4th-liner.

5th - Petteri Nummelin, Scott Heffernan, Tyler Kolarik, Cole Jarrett, Lasse Pirjeta, Arsi Piispanen, Petr Pohl, Tomas Popperle, Bobby Nyholm, Nick Sucharski, Maxime Frechette. Not an NHL player among them, although Pirjeta and Nummelin played briefly as overage Europeans.

6th - Shane Bendera, Justin Aikins, Artem Vostrikov, Tim Konsorada, Marc Methot, Robert Page, Lennart Petrell, Derek Reinhart, Kirill Starkov, Jesse Dudas. Methot is the only one who's had an NHL career; Petrell's time on the bottom of Edmonton's roster means about as much as Philippe Dupuis in Colorado.

7th - Janne Jokila, Raffaele Sannitz, Greg Mauldin, Steve Goertzen, Alexander Guskov, Justin Vienneau, Trevor Hendrikx, Derek Dorsett, Matt Marquardt. Dorsett is the only one to have an NHL career.

8th - Peter Zingoni, Ryan Bowness, Andrew Murray, Jaroslav Kracik, Mathieu Gravel, Brian McGuirk, Matt Greer. Murray had a brief NHL career.

9th - Martin Paroulek, Andrej Nedorost, Louis Mandeville, Sergei Mozyakin, Trevor Hendrikx, Grant Clitsome. Clitsome is the only one to have anything close to an NHL career.

Why is this all important? Notice that out of all of the players drafted in seven years by Doug MacLean, there were:
0 All-Stars
0 first-line forwards
0 second-line forward

1 third-line forward (Derek Dorsett)
4 fourth-line forwards (Jared Boll, Andrew Murray, Tim Jackman, Tom Sestito)
0 first-pairing defensemen
1 second-pairing defenseman (Marc Methot)
3 third-pairing defensemen (Adam McQuaid, Grant Clitsome, Kris Russell)
1 NHL-caliber goalie of any type (Steve Mason)

If we compare his later-round draft record to Don Waddell, another guy who drafted like a blind man trapped in a jungle, Waddell picked up Ondrej Pavelec and Tobias Enstrom late. If were to take the 10 best later-round picks of MacLean and Waddell, Waddell would own 7 of them. Maybe 8, depending on how generous I feel like being with Bryan Little.

Most damning with MacLean, however, is how quickly a lot of these players simply faded off into oblivion. Several were no longer NHL prospects just a year after being drafted, and several more weren't after two years.

For this part, dealing with Scott Howson's drafting, I'm going to break it down on a round-by-round basis as well. 2012 is exempt, since it's way too recent.

1st - Jakub Voracek, Nikita Filatov, John Moore, Ryan Johansen. Filatov was a complete waste in every way. Voracek was a first-line player in Columbus, and obviously a first-liner on any team in the league. Moore has had a breakthrough of sorts, and is likely to still end up as a first-pairing defenseman. Johansen has stepped up big-time this year; I'm shocked every time I look at his point total and see how low it is. The points will come though; his level of play is too high to stay that low.
NHL players - 3/4 (Voracek, Moore, Johansen)
No longer prospects - 1/4 (Filatov)
Holding the bag - 0/4

2nd - Stefan Legein, Will Weber, Cody Goloubef, Kevin Lynch, Dalton Smith, Petr Straka, Boone Jenner. Legein abruptly retired shortly after being drafted and ended up being traded. Goloubef finished his college career and turned pro; he's looked good in short callups. Weber is in his first pro year, and is coming along slowly. Lynch has just finished his college career and needs signed. Straka failed to progress and re-entered the draft, where he was unpicked. Jenner has exploded as a junior player and looks like he'll be a high-end third liner or second-liner.
NHL players - 0/7 (Goloubef has pro experience and is developing in the AHL)
NHL prospects - 5/7
No longer prospects - 2/7 (Straka and Legein)
Holding the bag - 1/7 (Straka)

3rd - Jake Hansen, TJ Tynan. Hansen is in Springfield after his college career ended, Tynan is still at Notre Dame.
NHL players - 0/2
NHL prospects - 2/2

4th - Maxim Mayorov, Steven Delisle, Drew Olson, David Savard, Brandon Archibald, Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault, Mike Reilly. Mayorov never did break through and is back in Russia. Delisle was traded as part of the Rick Nash deal. Olson won't be signed. Savard is still a prospect and had looked good in his callups. Reilly is in college. The other two (Archibald and Corbeil) were left unsigned and re-entered the draft, where neither was picked.
NHL players - 0/7 (Savard is on the verge)
NHL prospects - 2/7 (Savard and Reilly)
No longer prospects - 5/7
Holding the bag - 4/7 (Mayorov, Olson, Archibald, Corbeil)

5th - Matt Calvert, Tomas Kubalik, Brent Regner, Thomas Larkin, Austin Madaisky, Seth Ambroz. Calvert is in the NHL and has provided high-end versatility; he's physical, he's good defensively, and he can chip in on all facets of offense. Kubalik was traded, Regner never did anything, Larkin is on an ATO after his college career ended, and Madaisky is emerging after a major injury-related setback in the WHL.
NHL players - 1/6 (Calvert)
NHL prospects - 3/6 (Larkin, Madaisky, Ambroz)
No longer prospects - 2/6
Holding the bag - 1/6 (Regner)

6th - Allen York, Cam Atkinson, Anton Blomqvist, Dalton Prout, Lukas Sedlak. York and Atkinson both entered college after being drafted, and both have NHL experience. Atkinson is currently on the NHL roster and is one of the few offensive threats, while York is struggling to find playing time between the ECHL and AHL. Blomqvist has been plagued by injuries, but is still a prospect. Prout has looked outstanding in callups this year. Sedlak is in his last year of juniors and still needs signed.
NHL players - 1/5 (Atkinson, although two others have NHL experience)
NHL prospects - 4/5
No longer prospects - 0/5
Holding the bag - 0/5

7th - Trent Vogelhuber, Sean Collins, Kyle Neuber, Martin Ouellette, Anton Forsberg. Vogelhuber was the first player trained in central Ohio to be drafted, but he was unsigned after his college career ended. Collins has looked decent in a callup this year. Neuber never amounted to anything. Goalies Ouellette and Forsberg have emerged this year, and Forsberg may make the jump soon (Ouellette still has college eligiblity).
NHL players - 0/5 (Collins has NHL experience though)
NHL prospects - 3/5 (Collins, Ouellette, Forsberg)
No longer prospects - 2/5 (Neuber and Vogelhuber)
Holding the bag - 2/5 (same)

All told, that's 36 picks taken from 2007-11. 8 of them amounted to nothing for the organization, either by being unsigned or simply not being re-signed after their ELC expired. 5/36 are full-time NHL players, while 19 more are still prospects (several of whom have been called up and gotten NHL duty). 4 more have been moved for something of value (Filatov, Delisle, Kubalik, and Legein).

But this doesn't tell the story. In 2007, 4/7 picks overall made by Columbus were college-bound. In 2008, 4/9 overall picks fell into the same category. 3/6 in 2009 were, although John Moore ended up going the junior route rather than college. 3/6 in 2011 such picks were. Only 1/8 in 2010 were college players or otherwise bound for college. Overall, that's 16/36 players, an extremely high ratio.

What it means is that any dividends aren't likely to be seen for a longer period of time. A college-bound player is going to get at least three and perhaps four years before he even turns pro, at which point he's still going to need at least another year of pro before he does anything in the NHL. Cam Atkinson looked terrific as a rookie last year; he was drafted in 2008. Allen York, a rookie last year, was drafted in 2007 (he's still Calder-eligible). These are just two examples.

It does make sense to use a later pick on a college player. An 18-year-old in junior hockey will continue on his same path, while an 18-year-old in college hockey will have access to a training table, strength and conditioning coaches, and a longer period of time to develop before contract decisions need to be made. For three years, Kevin Lynch (2009 2nd-rounder) looked like a guy who was going to be unsigned out of college. After this year, that's not anywhere close to certain. He had a huge year and showed a lot in various areas of the game; this luxury doesn't exist for a junior player.

I don't intend to start a debate here about "which path is better". This particular path as taken by Columbus has resulted in a higher and more productive rate of success than what MacLean did, but the tradeoff is a longer period of time to see results. In addition, the substantially-bolstered system depth at every position has made it harder for the younger players to step in.

Are prospects being rushed by Columbus? Absolutely not. A cursory glance at every one of Howson's picks shows that "rushing" isn't part of what happened. Filatov was the only true bust, and even he was traded for a draft pick (TJ Tynan) before his value hit absolute zero. Voracek and Johansen undoubtedly could have slotted into the top-6 after being drafted, and both were sent back for an additional year of juniors. Voracek had 38 points as a rookie on a line with Jason Chimera, which is damn near impossible because Chimera seems to think that the NHL uses the same rules as NHL '94...offside off at all times.

The biggest difference is how many players are still prospects. If a defenseman gets injured (as they do), an actual NHL prospect will be recalled. Cody Goloubef didn't look out of place this year. Dalton Prout has looked good. David Savard has slumped this year, but looked good last year. If a forward goes down, someone like Sean Collins can get the call...he was a 7th-round pick out of Waywayseecapo of the SJHL in 2008, and now has NHL experience.

Of course, the question is why I have to go back and re-assess MacLean's drafting at all. It's quite simple, really. If Howson had taken over any other team in 2007, he'd have had something from 2000 (or earlier) to 2006 to work with. Any player 25 or older in the NHL right now was drafted when MacLean was the GM, and the list of truly elite talent drafted from 2007-present is fairly spread out.

Let's consider Chicago, who finished below Columbus in the 2006-07 season. If Howson had taken over Chicago in 2007, he'd be stepping into a system that already had Craig Anderson, Tuomo Ruutu, Adam Burish, James Wisniewski, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford, Dustin Byfuglien, Cam Barker, Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell, Troy Brouwer, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Jonathan Toews. Every single one of those players was drafted from 2001-06 by Chicago and still in the system. That doesn't even include the NHL roster, or players who had been acquired by trade (like Patrick Sharp)...those were just Chicago's draft picks.

Let's say he'd taken over Los Angeles in 2007, who finished near the bottom. He'd have Alexander Frolov, Lubomir Visnovsky, Mike Cammalleri, Dustin Brown, Brian Boyle, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Jonathan Bernier, and Trevor Lewis. All of those were Kings draft picks from 2000-06 who were still in their system.

And compare that to who Columbus had who's even still in the NHL at this point. Columbus didn't struggle to develop because Howson was a poor draft. Columbus struggled to bring along players because the system was barren, and because the heavier reliance on college-bound players simply takes longer to pay off.

Next up. Part 7: trades

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